A week ago I participated in a CaveDay. It’s a community of coworkers who come together to get deep work done. Facilitators lead you through a serious of work sprints to help encourage deep work and extreme focus around the milestones of a larger project.
so much opportunity, so much work
I am now instituting sprints for how I work during my regular work week, chunking out the work in timed blocks and then forcing myself/rewarding myself with mini break as each one concludes. There are a couple of elements that make this effective, and most are easy to replicate at home:
Framing The Day
- Not knowing exactly when the sprint ends. The facilitator told us when the sprint started, and then a bell was hit when it ended. In between, there was no knowing how much time you had to work. This means that everyone worked feverishly during that time in the hopes of getting as far as possible and 2) without knowing the definitive end point, there was no “winding down” period or transitioning out of the work. You stay deep the entire time, and fully committed to getting it done.
- Taking a break – After each sprint there was a stretch and potty break. Some of the breaks included a quick stretching exercise, or visualization of physical activity to get the mind, body, heart in line with movement. But this was also a time to refill your water bottle, run to the bathroom, grab a banana and quickly refuel.
- Rewarding yourself and acknowledging work completed. After each sprint the Caveday group facilitator would announce “sprint # done” and the rest of us would respond “done” followed by group applause. We all, as a collective, acknowledged that we were making progress bit by bit and physically rewarded ourselves for that. Small satisfaction, but still very effective in providing internal motivation.
we were making progress bit by bit and physically rewarded ourselves for that.
Doing The Work
- Eat the frog. This is a concept I first fell in love with when I read Bryan Tracy’s book about time management years ago. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend. But the premise is basically do the biggest most awful task that you have are most likely to procrastinate on first. This is good because 1) it feels great and provides momentum for the rest of the day and 2) makes sure the height of your energy is spent on the work that needs it the most (mental energy that is ).
- Healthy snacks and food to refuel. I like eating clean so this is a no-brainer. But at Caveday they provided healthy protein rich snacks to nosh on in the morning and had lunch catered – it included whole grains, veggies, vegan options and kombucha!! And of course they made sure people brought water bottles to stay hydrated all day. The brain needs fuel and hydration to work people!! Garbage in garbage out
- Coaches on hand to get through roadblocks. The way I found out about Caveday is because they have a coach at all of their sessions. Workers have someone on hand to help them get unstuck. These are mini sessions (20 minutes each), really serving as a coaching consult for anyone who wants to experience coaching real time. This one is less easy to replicate, so planning regular check ins with your coach is a good idea.
- Contracts – There was the physical contract that folks set up when they arrived. Everyone plans out what they will do in each sprint. You set the overall goal, and what things you will avoid to get it done (email, phone calls). They locked up our cell phones at arrival to make sure to limit distractions during the day. There was also the social contract of getting like minded people in the room who had decided not to be distracted for a whole day. -No side conversations during the sprints, no convening at the water cooler to talk about last nights episode of whatever. Everyone agreed that they were there to go deep. And finally the coaster. It was a way to physically note when you were in the work and when you were stepping out. It’s a small thing, but I loved it (clearly). I made sure I got to take a coaster home to continue this trend at home. Its a nice physical way to remind myself (and my kids if they’re home) that I am not available to interruptions while in a sprint. When you and your community have these agreements, the sprints have space to be effective.
This experience was awesome. I will be going back to the Cave in the near future and you should check it out if they are in a city near you. In the meantime, which of these techniques will you try at home to start getting more done in less time? Will you try a sprint? Eat that frog? Get a work in /work out coaster?
So many possibilities. Or as I have been known to say frequently this year. . .so much opportunity and so much work.
What a cool idea!
And for ~$50/day that’s a pretty low cost for a workspace rental. I also love the “Cave Indicators” to take this concept with you wherever you go. Reminiscent of the “feed me / stop feeding me” red/blue marker at Brazilian churrascarias! =p
If you don’t have a convenient “Cave” in your area and/or need to focus for a shorter sprint, there’s a new service called Focusmate (www.focusmate.com) – which puts you in a 50-minute VC with someone and you both make sure the other stays on task. Disclaimer: I haven’t tried it yet personally, but it’s another interesting concept in this area.